MY BIRTHDAY last year didn't turn out as planned. Instead of an enjoyable lunch, I spent the afternoon in the company of some smart clinicians and an impressive set of Zeiss optics.
Together, they explored an intimate body cavity previously of perceived interest only to the US Department of Homeland Security. The screen of the endoscope charted all too clearly the progress of the excavation - a strange mixture of a drain survey and some peculiar form of medical archaeology.
Lumpen and ugly, the tumour, when it loomed into view, looked out of place and sinister.
Maybe it was the sedation, but my first thought on hearing the boggling diagnosis of bowel cancer was: "Great, I've just paid out for two life memberships..."
Bitterness followed soon after. A year later, after some impressive surgery, a fortnight in hospital and six bewildering months of chemotherapy I emerged chastened and thoughtful. How I had missed the warning signs of this all-too-common disease, despite a career in science that has put heavy emphasis on evidence-based reasoning, was a mystery.